Thursday, November 14, 2013

Hi-Viz? No Thanks

This comment was posted on Citizen Cycle a local cycling blog sponsored by The Ottawa Citizen:
"I see a lot of cyclists wearing dark outfits. These are even worse at dawn and dusk…there is a reason why construction workers have orange and yellow all over their jackets at intersections. We can learn from that in picking our clothing. Don’t worry about fashion, worry about being seen." 
Sensible advice, surely. Cyclists are always struggling to be seen, what better advice then to dress in violently bright yellows and oranges. Hi-viz as it is known is hugely popular, jackets, vests, helmet covers even thermal booties are available in noxious yellow.

Image lifted without permission from visit the store relieve my guilt.
Now what is wrong with dressing like a ripe banana, if it improves your safety? Maybe I was just psychologically scared by day-glow in the '80s. Or perhaps just insufferably vain, feeling these shades reflect a slight jaundices in my complexion. Or maybe it is because dressing like a construction worker/crossing guard (love the Britishism "lollipop man" BTW, just doesn't work in North American context) simply doesn't work. As this video shows in low-light or dark conditions white or "bright" colours don't actually help:

Sure, 3M is selling reflective treatments, and the human eye is more sensitive then any camera in low-light conditions...
All the justifications you can think of do not change the fact that human eyes don't see colour very well in low light conditions. Much better then white or yellow at dusk is reflective treatments. Further, better then reflective elements would be active lighting! Or, put another way actual lights, after all reflective elements can only reflect light directed at them. A light shines in all directions.
You know what trumps all of that and makes even the light-less shinobi shozoko (Ninja uniform according to Google) clad cyclist visible on city streets? Street lights! Yes, since roughly 1875 according to Wikipidea, urban streets have been lit enabling citizens to navigate on moonless nights. This if very much appreciated in northern latitudes where the sun sets before four in the afternoon. Really what an urban cyclist needs is well lit infrastructure that limits interaction/conflict with automobiles. Not hideous yellow coats... 

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